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Catherine Kirkland's "NOTES ON A BUSH LIFE"

Page history last edited by Mcgooley 9 years, 4 months ago

NOTES OF A BUSH LIFE.

 

PART ONE

 

[In late numbers of Chambers’s Journal there is a series of articles headed “Notes of a Residence in the Bush”, by a lady formerly belonging to Edinburgh, who with her husband and family went out to settle at Port Phillip as Sheep Farmers. They were accompanied by two of the lady’s brothers who were associated with the husband in his proposed new course of life. They were upwards of two years and a-half upon a “run” in the inland parts of the Port Phillip settlement where they realise, without mitigation, the whole hardships, difficulties, and troubles, and also all the pleasures incident to bush life. The lady and her husband have returned to their native country; and, under the fictitious names of Mr and Mrs Thomson, they have given the public a narrative of their Bush residence. The “notes” give a very vivid account of the wild mode of existence to which the hope of bettering their fortunes has induced many persons to transfer themselves, who had been accustomed to the comforts and elegances of British society, and are interesting as showing the impression which the life and scenes of an Australian settlement produced upon an intelligent and accomplished lady. We shall reprint the whole series in occasional numbers. – EDITOR

 

{SOUTH AUSTRALIAN REGISTER} Wednesday, 22nd March 1843. Page 4.]

 

          I did not go on shore the first day[1]. While my husband was away with the large animals, I remained to look after the small stock. Next morning he came back to the vessel, and my brother James with him, also Mr. Yuille, who had left home only a few months before us; but, indeed, I scarcely recognised him, he was such a strange figure. He had allowed his beard to grow to a great length; he wore very rough-looking clothes, and a broad black leather belt round his waist, with a brace of pistols stuck in it. I afterwards found out that the settlers pride themselves in dressing and looking as rough as possible. Our vessel could not get nearer the land than a quarter-of-a-mile, consequently we went out in a small boat; but even in that we could not get near the shore, on account of the water being so shallow. I was carried out by my husband, and all our goods had to be brought ashore in the same way; but every one helped, and we seemed rather to like the ploy.

 

        When landed, we looked like a party thrown on a desert island, the shore was so barren, and not a trace of human habitation to be seen, or any of the works of man. All was in a state of nature; and I kept looking round, expecting every moment to see some of the dreaded savages rushing upon us. I did not feel comfortable on account of the natives, I had heard such accounts of them in Van Diemen’s Land.

 

        When all our luggage and animals were landed, we began to pack our own and Messrs Donald and Hamilton’s dray; this took us a long time. The Messrs Baillie were also with us with their drays, so we made up a strong party. When all were ready to start, I got into a spring-cart which Mr. Thomson had borrowed from Mr. Fisher for me; but indeed my share of it was very small. It was already so well filled that I could scarcely find a seat. Our shepherd’s wife, who was no light weight, took up more than her share of the seat; she carried Agnes (the infant) on her knee. I took possession of the other seat. At my feet were four little dogs of Mr. Baillie’s, also three cats, some cocks and hens, and a pair of rabbits; at our back were three pigs, and some geese and ducks. We were a noisy party, for at times our road was very rough, and some of our animals were rather inclined to be quarrelsome.

 

        The spring-cart went first, then came the five drays, and all the gentlemen walking alonside, with the dogs running beside them. Most of the gentlemen had either pistols at their sides or a gun in their hands. Little Nanny followed behind, accompanied by old Billy, who had a wonderfully long beard. The country seemed very scrubby and barren, and the trees so dark and ugly, that I was disappointed in the appearance of them. I expected to see beautiful large trees, but I saw none to compare with the trees of my own country. My husband told me to have patience till I went farther up the country; but after being three years in it, I am still of the same opinion.

 

        We got to Mr. Fisher’s about seven o’clock; she received us very cordially. We found tea awaiting us, and I there tasted damper for the first time. I liked it very much; it is like bread, but closer and heavier. I said to Mrs. Fisher that she must think we had taken a great liberty in coming on such force upon her; but she did not at all seem to think so. She said she was quite accustomed to have many gentlemen visitors, but she never had had a lady before. I could not at all fancy how she would manage in regard to giving us beds; however, she soon disposed of us very easily. A bed was made up for me, little Agnes, and her maid, on the parlour-floor, and all the gentlemen were sent to the wool-shed, to sleep as they best could: fifteen slept in it that night. A few of them had blankets and rugs, but most of them had nothing.

 

        We remained a week here. Next day we saw some of the natives; they are very ugly and dirty. Some of them wore skins sewed together and thrown over their shoulders; a few had some old clothes given them by the settlers; and some were naked. They kept peeping in at the windows to see us, and were always hanging about the huts. Mrs. Fisher called them civilised natives, and said they were always about the place. One day I went out to walk with little Agnes in the bush. I was keeping a good look-out for snakes, and was just stepping over what I fancied, by a slight glance, to be a burnt log of wood, but a second look showed me my mistake; it was a native lying in the grass, grinning in my face with his large white teeth. I was rather afraid, but he looked very good-tempered and laughed. He seemed too lazy to move, so I gave him a nod, and walked on, well pleased he did not think it necessary to accompany me home. My servant Mary was very much afraid of the natives. She would scarcely move out of the hut, and was always crying and wishing herself at home. She said she was determined to make her husband send her home with the first money he made. She wondered why I did not think as she did. She would take comfort from no one, and was quite sure she would be killed by the wild natives when she got up the country.

 

        We had fixed to begin our journey up the country, and the gentlemen had gone to Geelong to load the drays. I waited for them in Mr. Fisher’s hut, when in a moment it got quite dark, and the wind roared most tremendously. It was the most awful sight I ever witnessed; we were afraid to move. The storm passed over in about ten minutes, but many a tree had been torn up by the roots during that time. When the gentlemen came with the drays, they were so covered with dust, that I could scarcely tell one from the other. Some of them had been knocked down by the tornado, and one of the drays blown over. It was now too late for us to begin our journey, so we remained another night at Mr. Fisher’s , and started early in the morning. On this occasion, we had much difficulty in getting the horses to start; they were ill broken in, and many times they stopped on the road, so that we had often to take some of the bullocks out of the other drays to pull them on again. We travelled the first day thirty miles, quartering for the night at Mr. Sutherland’s hut, which he kindly gave up for our accomodation. Next day we had to rest the bullocks, so we walked over to Mr. Russell’s station, about three miles distant, and remained there a night.  

 

In the evening we went to see a meeting of the natives, or a corobery, as they call it. About a hundred natives were assembled. They had about twenty large fires lighted, around which were seated the women and children. The men had painted themselves, according to their own fancy, with red and white earth. They had bones, and bits of stones, and emus’ feathers tied on their hair, and branches of trees tied on their ankles, which made a rushing noise when they danced. Their appearance was very wild, and, when they danced, their gestures and attitudes were equally so. One old man stood before the dancers, and kept repeating some words very fast in a kind of time, whilst he beat together two sticks. The women never dance; their employment is to keep the fires burning bright, and some of them were beating sticks, and declaiming in concert with the old man. The natives, when done with their corobery, were very anxious that we white people would show them how we coroberied; so we persuaded Mr. Yuille to dance for them, which he did, and also recited a piece of poetry, using a great many gestures. The natives watched him most attentively, and seemed highly pleased. After giving them some white money, and bidding them good night, we returned to Mr. Russell’s hut.

 

Next morning our bullocks were lost – a very common occurrence, it being impossible to tie them, as in that case they would not feed; and unless one has a very good bullock-driver who will watch them, it generally takes several hours to find them in the morning. Numbers of natives came this forenoon to see us; they examined my dress very attentively, and asked the name of everything, which they tried to repeat ater me. They were much amused with my little Agnes, and she was as much pleased with them. I wondered what her grandmamma would have thought, could she have seen her in the midst of a group of savages, and the life of the party. Whenever Agnes spoke, they all laughed loud, and tried to imitate her voice; and the pickininny lubra’s dress was well examined. I put a little nightcap on a native baby, with which its mother was much pleased, and many a little black head was thrust out for one also.

 

I now began to be a little disgusted and astonished at the dirty and uncomfortable way in which the settlers lived. They seemed quite at the mercy of their hut-keepers, eating what was placed before them, out of dirty tin plates, and using a knife and fork if one could be found. Sometimes the hut-keepers would cook the mutton in no way but as chops; some of them would only boil it, and some roast it, just as they liked; and although the masters were constantly complaining of the sameness, still it never seemed to enter their heads to make their servants change the manner of cooking; but the truth was, they were afraid to speak, in case the hut-keeper would be offended and run away. The principal drink of the settlers is tea, which they take at every meal, and indeed all the day. In many huts the tea-pot is always at the fire; and if a stranger comes in, the first thing he does is to help himself to a panikin of tea. We had neither milk nor butter at any station we were at; nothing but mutton, tea, and damper three times a day. Every meal was alike from one week to another , and from year’s end to year’s end. I was so sick of it, I could scarcely eat anything.

 

Next day we had our bullocks ready in good time, as we had a long journey before us; at least we hoped to get on a good way. The heat this day was very intense, and we had no shade. I could scarcely bear it; and before evening we had drunk all the water we brought with us. I thought I should have died of thirst; and we were all suffering alike. Poor little Agnes cried much; at last we got her to sleep to forget her wants. My husband was driving one of the drays, and was so thirsty that, when we came to a muddy hole of water on the path, which the dray had passed through, he lay down on the ground and drank heartily. One of our party, who knew something of the roads, told us we were near water-holes, which raised our spirits. At last we came to them, and both people and animals took many a long drink, although the water was bad, and quite bitter from the reeds which grew in it. We filled our cask, and continued our journey a few miles farther, to a place where we were to sleep in the bush. When we got out of the dray, one of the little kittens could not be seen; but, on a nearer inspection, it was found squeezed flat on the seat where our servant Mary had sat; it looked as if it had gone through a mangle. Poor Mary was much distressed and annoyed by the gentlemen telling her she must be an awful weight.

 

We had soon lighted a fire at the foot of a tree, and put on a huge pot of water to boil; when it did boil two or three handsful of tea were put into it, and some sugar. One of the men made some thick cakes of flour and water, and fried them in grease. We had also some chops cooked, which we all enjoyed, as we had not stopped to eat anything on the road. The tea was not poured out; every one dipped his panikin into the pot and helped himself. Mary, Agnes, and I had a bed made with some blankets under the dray, and all the others slept round the fire, taking by turn the duty of watching the bullocks. Before going to rest, the bullock-driver made a large damper, which he fired in the ashes, for our provision next day.

 

We got up at day-break, had breakfast, and went on again, and travelled through a forest on fire for forty miles.  I was often afraid the burning trees would fall upon us; and we had sometimes to make a new path for ourselves, from the old tracks being blocked up by fallen timber. The fires in the bush are often the work of the natives, to frighten away the white men; and sometimes of the shepherds, to make the grass sprout afresh. A conflagration not unfrequently happens from some one shaking out a tobacco-pipe (for everyone smokes), and at this season the grass is so dry that it soon catches fire.

 

We rested for two hours and cooked some dinner, chiefly that our bullocks might feed and rest during the heat of the day. Mr. Yuille and I made some fritters of flour and water; I thought them the best things I ever ate. The Scotch clergyman from Melbourne passed us on the road: he rebuked our bullock-driver for swearing at his bullocks; but the man told him that no one ever yet drove bullocks without swearing, it was the only way to make them go. We lost a very fine kangaroo dog by one of the drays falling back upon it.

 

This night we slept at Mr. Anderson’s hut (Buninyong): he was from home, but had an old woman as hut-keeper, who made us as comfortable as she could; but it was a cold night, and the wind whistled very keenly through a door made of rushes. This was one of the most neatly-kept huts I ever saw, and the owner of it one of the few gentlemen who always kept himself neat and clean in the bush.

 

Next day we went over the Mr. Yuille’s station (Ballarat), where we remained six weeks, until our own hut was put up; the gentlemen kindly gave up the sleeping apartment to me. While at Mr. Yuille’s station I gathered a great many mushrooms, the finest I ever saw. I had fortunately a bundle of spices in my trunk, and I made a good supply of ketchup, both for Mr. Yuille and to take to our own station.

 

I felt distressed to see so much waste and extravagance amongst the servants. Many a large piece of mutton I have seen thrown from the hut door that might have served a large family for dinner; and unfortunately there is no remedy for this: if the masters were to take notice of it, it would only make them worse, or else they would run away, or, as they call it, bolt. I saw plainly that there would be neither comfort nor economy to the masters so long as the country was so ill provided with servants; they were the masters; they had the impudence always to keep in their own hut the best pieces of the meat, and sent in to their masters the inferior bits. I was sorry my servant Mary should have so bad an example, but hoped that she had too much good sense to follow it, as she appeared as much shocked at it as myself.

 

I was glad when my husband came to take us to our own station, which was thirty miles farther up the country. Part of the country we passed through was the most beautiful I ever saw, while other portions were cold and bleak. We stopped at one or two huts, and had mutton, tea, and damper, at each of them. We passed an immense salt lake (Lake Burrumbeet), which is gradually drying up: its circumference is forty miles. Many lakes, both salt and fresh, have dried up lately. The natives say it is the white people coming that drives away the water: they say, “Plenty mobeek long time, combarley white fellow mobeek gigot” – in English, “plenty water for a long time, but when the white people come, the water goes away”. The natives have some strange ideas of death: they think, when they die, they go to Van Diemen’s Land, and come back white fellows. I know a young man who receives many a maternal embrace from an old black woman. She fancies he is her son, who died some time before; she saw him come back, and she calls him always by her son’s name. They also believe in a good and an evil spirit, and that fire will keep away the bad spirit; consequently, at night, when urgent business prompts them to move about, they always carry a fire-stick; but they do not like moving in the dark.

 

When we passed the salt lake, the country began to improve. I thought we should never come to our own station, the bullocks travel so very slowly. At last Mr. Thomson told me to look forward as far as I could see: we were now at the end of a large plain or marsh. I looked, and saw our pretty little hut peeping through a cluster of trees. I cannot say how it was, but my heart beat with delight for the first time I saw that place. I took it for a presentiment of good fortune; and Mary, who had now got over her fear of the natives, seemed to participate in my feelings, for she said, “It’s a bonny place, and my heart warms to it.”

 

PART TWO

 

[The first of this series of papers brought the lady, with her husband and family (including her two brothers), to their hut, a hundred-and-twenty miles back from Melbourne. We are now to see them settled in their run. Wednesday 29 March 1843]

 

        I now hoped that my travels were ended for some time. As we approached the hut, my brother Robert came to meet us, to my great joy, for I had not seen him for nearly two months. When we arrived, we found my other brother busy making himself a bedstead. Our house was not nearly finished, as it had neither doors nor windows, nor could we get these luxuries for some months, as many things more immediately necessary were to be done.

We had plenty of daylight in our hut, as it was built of slabs, or split boards, and every slab was about an inch apart from the next. We passed the winter in this way; but it was never very cold, except in the mornings and evenings; we were more annoyed by the rain coming down the chimney and putting out our fire than anything else.

 

        It may seem strange, but I now felt very happy and contented. Although we had not many luxuries, we all enjoyed good health, and had plenty to keep us employed; we had no time to weary; the gentlemen were always busy building huts or fences. The first two years of a settlers’ life are very busy ones, so much is to be done in settling on a spot where the foot of a white man had never been before. I was the first white woman who had ever been so far up the country. I did not know much of cooking, but necessity makes one learn many things. We had many visitors, who seemed often to enjoy any little new dish we had; it was a change from that everlasting mutton and damper, and many a recipe I gave away: and, to my great delight, I got Mary to do as I liked, not as she liked.

Sandy, our shepherd, generally came home in the evening loaded with wild ducks; they were exceedingly good. We also sometimes got wild geese, turkeys, and swans – all good eating; they were a great saving to us, as well as very delightful food. We had no milk or butter, which I missed at first, but we hoped some time soon to have a few cows: it is very difficult to drive cattle so far up, and we could get none near us.

 

        When we had been in our hut about a week, a number of settlers happened to come from different parts of the country. Before it was dark eight had assembled, with the determination of remaining all night of course. I felt much anxiety about giving them beds; but that was impossible, as we had only one spare mattress.

I think they guessed my thoughts, for they told me never to think of giving them anything to sleep on – that no one in this country ever thought of beds for visitors, and that they would manage for themselves. However, I collected all the blankets, pea-jackets, and cloaks I could find, and they all slept on the floor: I heard them very merry while making up their beds.

Every settler, when riding through the bush, carries either a kangaroo-rug or a blanket fastened before him on his horse, so that, wherever he goes, he is provided with his bed; and as it is not an uncommon circumstance for one to lose himself in the bush, and be obliged to sleep at the root of a tree, he then finds his rug or blanket very useful.

William Hamilton lost himself in the bush one night. It became dark, and he gave up hopes of reaching any station that night, as he had not the least idea where he was. He fastened his horse, and lay down at the root of a tree, far from being comfortable, as he had unfortunately no blanket, and still worse, no tobacco, or the means of lighting a fire. It was a very cold night, when daylight came he got up covered with frost: he heard some dogs bark, and soon found out that he was not more than half-a-mile from Mr. Baillie’s (Carngham) hut where he might have passed a much more comfortable night; but he was glad he had not to look long for a breakfast and a fire. No one seems ever to catch cold from sleeping out at night.

 

        We were rather unfortunate in frequently losing our bullocks, which set back all the buildings. Our bullock-driver was very careless: his only work seemed to be finding his bullocks one day, and losing them the next; he was a melancholy-looking little man, and went by the name of “Dismal Jamie”. Mary told me she was sure he had been a great man at home, he read so beautifully, and knew so much; but certainly he knew little about bullock-driving.  At this time our dray was often a month away upon a journey to and from the settlement. “Dismal Jamie” broke the neck of a beautiful bullock when he was yoking it up, and next trip he drowned another in a water-hole; but new settlers always meet with a few such accidents. Although bullocks often disappear, and wander far from home, I never heard of any one losing a bullock; they are always found some time, though it may be for months after they are missed, having in general gone back to the run they were first put upon.

 

        Buying and selling are favourite amusements in the bush, more particularly if a new settler arrives. Every one wants to buy something of him: and, in general, all bring so many more clothes, &c., than they require, that they are glad to dispose of them. I have seen some rather amusing scenes in this way. No one keeps any money in the bush; so a bill is generally given on some store in town for whatever is bought. The old settlers would give an enormous price for good fire-arms: indeed, I used to think they would buy anything.

 

        It is a beautiful sight to see a number of emus running across a plain: they run so quickly that a horse can scarcely overtake them. Sometimes the natives run like the emu to deceive the white people; and they imitate them so well that it is difficult, at a distance, to know them from a flock of emus. Occasionally they take a fancy to stand in such an attitude that you cannot, at a little distance, tell them from the burnt stump of a tree. I used often, when walking in the bush, to fancy a burnt stump was a native, and made myself believe I saw him move.

 

        In the month of September I had to proceed to Melbourne, as I expected to be confined, and we were too far up to ask a medical man to come. On the road I met our friend Mr. Hamilton. As he came from the Settlement, he brought all the news; but he gave us a sad account of the state of the rivers. He said he was sure we could not cross them – it was difficult for him to cross them three days before, and it had rained ever since. Mr. Reid (George Frederick Read of Cargarie) sent off a man on horseback to see the river: he did not bring back a favourable account; but I was determined to try it. Mr. Reid and several gentlemen went with us to help us over our difficulty. We crossed one river without much trouble, though the water was so deep that both bullocks and horses had to swim: but when we came to the next river, the “Marable” (Moorabool River), it was so deep that we were at a loss how to get over. It was thought decidedly dangerous for me to remain in the dray while it was crossing. Many plans were talked of: at last it was fixed to fell a tree and lay it across, that I might walk over; but in looking about for one of a proper size and position, one was found lying across, which, from appearance, seemed to have been there for years: it was covered with green moss, and stood about twenty feet above the water. Notches were cut in it for me to climb up and give me a firm footing, and I walked over, holding Mr. Reid’s hand. On landing I received three cheers. My husband was too nervous to help me across – he thought his foot might slip. The gentlemen then went to see the dray across, while little Robert Scott and I lighted a fire at the root of a large tree, which we had in a cheerful blaze before the gentlemen came. We then had tea in the usual bush fashion; it did not rain, and we had a very merry tea-party. I retired to the dray soon after tea; the gentlemen continued chatting round the fire for some time, and then laid themselves down to sleep, with their saddles at their heads and their feet to the fire.

 

        We breakfasted at daybreak, and started again after taking leave of the gentlemen, except Mr. Anderson, who was going to Melbourne. He rode on before to the settlement to tell Mrs. Scott (who expected us at her house) that we were coming. I had not seen a lady for eight months. Mrs. Scott was exceeding kind to me, and would not allow me to go to lodgings, as I had intended. Next day being Sunday, I went to church – at least, to the room where the congregation met, as no church was yet built in Melbourne. The ladies in Melbourne seemed to consider me a kind of curiosity, from living so far up the country, and all seemed to have a great dread of leading such a life, and were surprised when I said I like it. I spent Monday evening at Mrs. Denny’s, a Glasgow lady; but I really felt at a loss upon what subjects to converse with ladies, as I had been so long accustomed only to gentlemen’s society; and in the bush had heard little spoken of but sheep or cattle, horses, or of building huts.

 

        My little boy was born four days after I came to Melbourne; but my husband did not get down from the station for two months, as it was sheep shearing time – a very busy time for the settlers. He came down with the wool in our own and Mr. Scott’s dray. Mr. Clow christened our baby out of a basin which at one time belong to the Barony church in Glasgow; it was Mr. Scott’s, whose grand-father had been minister of that church, and he had got the old basin when the church was repaired and a new one substituted. I met with much kindness and attention from the people in Melbourne. Our dray was again covered with saplings and tarpaulin, and Mrs. Scott and her family went along with us as far as their own station (Mt. Boninyong Station near Buninyong. The property is still [2011] in the family). We were again much detained on the roads on account of rain, which had rendered them extremely soft; but we got well over the rivers. We had to remain for two days and nights in the bush, for it rained so heavily that the bullocks could not travel: but by this time our party was increased by two drays belonging to another settler, and we had often to join all the bullocks to pull each dray through the marshes and up the hilly ground. We had, at one time, ten pairs of bullocks in the heavy dray with luggage and provisions, and we were in constant dread of the poles breaking. At last one of Mr. Elm’s drays broke down, and had to be left in the bush, with a man to watch it, till a new pole could be got. I believe the man did not watch it long; he ran off to Melbourne, and left it to its fate. Mrs. Scott, her little daughter, and servant, myself, and baby, always slept in the dray, and Mr. Scott and my husband under it.

One morning I got into a little hut with the roof half off; it was empty, and I thought I could wash and dress my baby more comfortably than in the dray. I had not been long in the hut when we were surrounded by natives, all anxious to see what we were about. One or two of the women came into the hut, and touched the pickaninny cooley, as they called it; they seemed much amused at his different pieces of dress, and all the little black pickaninnies tried to cry like him. I seldom ever heard a black baby cry, and when it does so, the mother has little patience with it, but gives it a good blow with her elbow to make it quiet. The women carry their children at their backs in a basket or bag; and when they suckle them, they generally put their breast under their arm, and I have seen them throw it over their shoulder. The natives who we met here knew me; they said they had seen me before, when I went up the country with a pickaninny leubra, but I did not recollect any of their faces. When a black woman has a second child before the first can run about and take care of itself, it is said they eat the second one. I have been told this several times, but am not certain if it is really the case, it is so very unnatural; but it is well known they are cannibals, and I know they will not submit to anything that troubles them. They are very lazy, particularly the men; they make their leubras go about all day to dig for maranong, or find other kinds of food for them, while they amuse themselves by hanging about idle. In the evening they meet at their mi-mi; the men eat first, and whatever they choose to leave, the leubras and pickaninnies may eat afterwards; sometimes a very affectionate cooley may now and then, while he is eating, throw a bit to his leubra, as we should do to a dog, for which kindness she is very grateful. Maranong is a root found in the ground; it is white, and shaped like a carrot, but the taste is more like a turnip; the leubras dig for it with long pointed sticks, which they always carry in their hands. I have often eaten maranong; it is very good; and I have put it in soup for want of better vegetables, before we had a garden. Vegetables of all kinds now grow here most luxuriantly; we could have peas all the years round, except in June.

 

        When we were within six miles of Mr. Scott’s station our pole broke; we got a dray from Mr. Neven’s (Hugh Niven at Narmbool, died September 1839 of injuries received due to riding accident on Geelong road) station, a few miles off, and went in it to Mr. Scott’s station, where my husband and I remained two days; we then took our leave, and went on to Mr. Baillie’s station. Five miles from his hut our dray broke down again in crossing a creek. We could see Mr. Baillie’s huts for nearly a mile before we came to them; so I begged my husband to go on quickly, to send the bullocks for our dray before it got quite dark. I felt myself quite safe while in sight of the huts; but before I got to them I had a sad fright; four or five great kangaroo dogs attacked me, and almost pulled my baby out of my arms, and tore my dress to pieces; my cries were heard at the hut, and my husband and two or three others soon came to my assistance. I was told the dogs were only in fun, and would not bite; that they seldom saw a woman which made them tear my clothes. I thought it was rather rough fun; but I received no harm from them except a torn dress.

 

We got home to our own station next day, after being eleven days on the road. My baby and myself were both very delicate when we left the settlement, and I dreaded much either of us being ill on the road; but we never had a complaint from the day we entered the dray, although the weather was very bad, and our dray sometimes wet through. Such a journey in Scotland would, I am sure almost kill a strong person; but in Port Phillip, so far from killing one, a little delicate baby of two months old could stand it, and gained more strength during that rough journey than he did during a month before with every comfort. I often though of the words of Sterne – “God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb”. I found little Agnes at the hut in high health. Mary, in her over-zeal, had fed her, and made her so fat that I scarcely knew her. I suppose she thought the fatter Agnes was the more I should be pleased.

 

 

PART THREE

Wednesday 5 April 1843

 

        During my absence at Melbourne, everything had gone on well at the station: but I soon found that Mary had been managing as she chose too long to like being again under my control. I found her almost totally changed; no one dared to find fault with her; and so far from being of any assistance to me, she became a great torment. The first act of rebellion was her refusal to wash my baby’s clothes, on the plea that she was not engaged to do it, so I had to do it myself: the next was, she would not wash any one’s clothes unless I cooked for two days. I wondered what her next demand would be; but what could I do? – it would be very difficult to get another woman-servant. I had so far to humour her, that I cooked one day in the week when she had to wash. She never helped me at all with the children, although (?) we lately got a herd of cattle, I had taken the management of the dairy upon myself – except, of course, milking the cows, which is done by men; but my time was fully employed, and I often envied Mary sitting quietly in her own hut and sewing her own work. I knew well why she behaved in this manner: she wanted me to retain her as nursery-maid only, and get a woman as hut-keeper; but wages were too high for us to do that at this time. If the baby would not sleep when I wanted him to I laid him on the grass and let him roll about while I was in the dairy; and when he tired of that I put him in a basket and hung him at my side, as I had seen the native women do.

 

        We were now milking twenty cows, and we sent a great deal both of butter and cheese to market; for the butter we got 2s. 2d., per lb., and for cheese 1s. 4d. Our cheese was the best that had gone to market, but there was no great demand for it: but if so, a cheese dairy would pay very well, even at a shilling per pound; and I should suppose, that as the population increases there will be a great demand. With much persuasion I got my brother to bring home some pigs; he seemed to have a great dislike to them, but I could not bear to pour out so much skimmed milk on the ground every day. Our pigs got on well, and fattened on the milk and whey, and made an agreeable change in our diet. In very hot weather I made cheese when I could get rennet, as the milk did not keep well; our dairy was too small and not cool enough. In thundery weather, I had occasionally to give all to the pigs. I have seen, when a sheep is killed in thundery weather, the carcass get quite black in a few hours, and become useless; we found it very difficult to keep meat in any way in summer. We had it killed always after sunset, and then got up and salted early next morning, and put in in a cask underground. I made a good supply of mutton hams, which were found useful in hot weather; and our dairy was a great comfort and saving to us, as we could use the milk, prepared in many ways, instead of meat. The shepherds were also fond of it. We gave them no butter except on the churning day on which occasion I sent them some for tea, which was a great treat.

 

        We all went over one day to dine at Messrs Donald and Hamilton’s; it was the only visit I ever paid in the bush, although I had many invitations. I of course took the children with me; we enjoyed ourselves very much, and remained all next day. Mrs. Clark joined her persuasions for us to do so, and told us we had not seen half the good things she could make; she spared no pains to make us comfortable, and went through her work both quickly and well, besides nursing my little boy. After this visit, I had many invitations to visit the neighbours round, which I should have liked very well, but I had too much to detain me at home.

 

        Bad servants were now our chief annoyance; and it seemed of no use being at the expense of bringing good ones from home, for they soon get corrupted. At this time we had a very troublesome old shepherd, who was continually letting his sheep go astray. One morning when my brother was counting them over, ninety-two were missing; the shepherd could give no account of them, but that the day before the flock had divided, but he fancied he had collected them all again. My brother James took a hurried breakfast, and went with two of our men on horseback to endeavour to track them, they returned in the evening without having seen anything of them; but James determined to go off again early next morning, and, if necessary, remain out several days. One of the men returned in two days, and brought us intelligence that they had found the sheep-track beyond Mr. Campbell’s station, which was fifteen miles distant; the man returned to try and get a fresh horse from some of the neighbours, but we could not get one for two days; he brought an emu across his horse, which he had run down. He told us that my brother was out with several gentlemen, and they had a native boy with them who was famous for tracking, but who seemed sadly afraid of going among a hostile tribe of natives, and therefore was of little use. Our own man Sandy, whom we had brought from home, was a good tracker, and could see a mark when no one else could: he had tracked the sheep for nearly a mile on his hands and knees, the marks being too faint to be seen when walking or riding. At last, after fourteen days’ riding, the sheep were found a hundred and forty miles from our station. My brother and his friends had almost given up thoughts of looking any longer for them; but they rode on about a mile farther, when they saw them in a hollow, surrounded by about a hundred natives; the men had all hid themselves, having seen the party coming, and left the women and children, who ran about chattering and hiding behind the rocks. The party rode down among them, and a singular scene met their view: the ground was strewed with heads of sheep and bits of mutton, and some of the sheep were as well cut up as if done by an English butcher: the skins were pegged out on the ground, and the fat collected in little twine bags, which the women make of the bark of a tree. Fifty live sheep were enclosed within a brush fence (James said it was the best brush fence he had seen in the country), but they were very thin, the natives being too lazy to take them out to feed; they were killing and eating them...

 

(here the narrative is interrupted. Some 500-odd words have been blanked out of the text. Refer to notes at end of document.)    

 

...dog which was supposed to be dead; its tail was cut off, and in a few minutes it got up and began to fight again with the dogs, but it was soon overcome.

 

        Australia, as is well-known, possesses many beautiful birds, and of these we seldom wanted visitors, particularly parrots and cockatoos; but I never heard any sweet-singing bird, such as the larks and blackbirds of Scotland, and this I thought a great drawback on their elegance of plumage. Some of the birds uttered very strange sounds, as if speaking. I heard one every morning say – “Eight o’clock”, and “Get up, Get up”; another used to call out  - “All fat, All fat”; and another was continually saying – “Potato, Potato”, which always put us in mind of our loss in having none, nor any other vegetable.

 

        I now come to the year 1840. Provisions at this time became very high in price. Flour was £80 a ton, and it was scarcely to be had in a good condition; tea, £16 a chest; sugar 6d a pound; meat, butter, and cheese, were unfortunately for the farmers, the only things which fell in price. We could now get only 1s 10d for butter, and 1s for cheese.

 

        Our station had now a great look of comfort about it. We had plastered the outside of our hut with mud, which made it quite close: we had windows and good doors, and a little flower-garden enclosed in front; we had built a good hut for our servants, a new store, a large dairy underground, a new wool-shed, and had two large paddocks for wheat, potatoes, &c., and we had now plenty of vegetables. We had also put up a larger stock-yard, as our cattle were increasing, and a large covered shed for the calves at night; also to milk in.

About five miles from the home station, we had formed an out-station for the sheep, which secured to us a large tract of land, as no new settler can come within three miles of a station. Every one thought highly of our station; and we were well off for water, having several large water holes (as they are always called here, but at home we should call them lakes, or large ponds); and when the rains come on, these ponds are joined together in a river, which comes down very rapidly.

We often had a river running past our huts, where a few minutes before I had walked over on dry land.An immense number of ducks and geese came down with the water; I have seen our man Sandy kill seven or eight at a shot just opposite the huts.

We had had a good many visits from the natives lately; they were much encouraged at Mr. Baillie’s station, and we began not to turn them away so quickly as we used to do; but we never allowed them to sleep at the station, except one big boy, “Tom”, whom we had determined to keep if he would remain, thinking he might be useful in finding stray cattle or sheep. Tom was very lazy, but he was always obliged to chop wood or do some work, else he got nothing to eat; which we found to be the only way to make the natives active.

 

        In some of the fresh-water ponds there are found immense quantities of mussels, which the native women dive for. We often saw numbers of shells lying in heaps where the blacks had been eating them. They are also fond of a large grub found generally in the cherry and honeysuckle tree; they can tell, by knocking the tree with a stick, if any grubs are in it. When they knock the tree, they put their ear close to listen, and they open it with a tomahawk at the very spot the grubs are to be found. It is a large white grub with a black head. I know a gentleman who was tempted to taste them from seeing the natives enjoy them so much, and he said they were very good, and often ate them again.

Manna falls very abundantly from the gum trees at certain seasons of the year; I think it was in March I gathered some. It is very good, and tastes like almond biscuits; it is only to be procured early in the morning, as it disappears soon after sunrise. We sometimes got some skins of opposums and flying-squirrels, or tuan, from the natives. It was a good excuse for them to come to the station. I paid them with a piece of dress, and they were very fond of getting a red pocket-handkerchief to tie around their necks.

 

 

PART FOUR

Saturday 15 April 1843

 

We were visited one day by a very large party of natives; I am sure there were a hundred of them. I happened to be alone in the hut. Some of the men came in and examined all they saw very attentively, especially the pictures we had hanging on the walls. They were much taken with a likeness of my mother, and laughed heartily at some black profiles; they said they were black “leubras”. I told them to leave the hut, but they would not; and one, a very tall fellow, took the liberty of sitting down beside me on the sofa. I did not much like being alone with these gentry, so I rose to go to the door to call some one, but my tall friend took hold of my arm and made me sit down again; on which I cried out sufficiently loud to alarm my husband, who was building a hut behind. He came in and turned them all out, but they still kept hanging about the station for some time.

My husband took his gun and shot some white parrots, which were flying in an immense flock overhead. Some of the natives ran and picked them up, and thrust them into some hot ashes, where they had lighted a fire, without even taking the feathers off. They were soon cooked in the way, and I believe ate very well. I had often seen black Tom cook parrots and cockatoos in this manner. The natives will eat anything that comes in their way. I saw a woman take a piece of sheep-skin, singe the wool off, and then begin to eat it, giving her baby a piece of it also; much to my surprise, they actually ate a large piece of the skin.

 

        At this time I had a pleasant visit from Mrs. Gibson and her brother; they were on their way to a new station about fifteen miles beyond us. I was delighted to have the privilege of talking to a lady again; it was more than a year since I had seen one, and my little girl had not words to express her delight and astonishment.  The sight of a “white leubra”, as she called her, seemed for a time to take away her speech; but she soon began to question her very closely as to where she came from, and whether there were any more like her in her country. I am sure Agnes dreamed of her all night, for she often spoke of the beautiful lady in her sleep; and the moment she was dressed in the morning, she went to look again at her. Some time after this, Mrs. Gibson’s courage was well tried. She had occasion to go a journey on horseback, and not knowing the road, she took a native with her as a guide. When they were at some distance from home, the man wanted her to dismount, and, indeed, tried to pull her off her horse. He did not know she had a pistol with her; but she pulled one out and presented it at him, telling him that unless he walked on before the horse and showed her the proper way to go, she would shoot him. Had she appeared at all afraid, most likely he would have killed her; but her courage saved her, and she arrived safely at her journey’s end.

 

        When all the gentlemen were from home, one of the shepherds came to my hut door to tell me that in counting over his sheep, as they came out of the yard, he missed twenty-five. He was a stupid old man: so I asked the stock-keeper to get his horse and ride over the run; but he proposed driving the sheep over the same ground they had gone the previous day, in hope that the lost ones might join the flock. This was done; and when the sheep were again put into the yard, they were found all right. We had many alarms about losing sheep; but, except the time they were taken by the natives, we always found them.

One night it had become dark, and there was no appearance of the sheep’s coming home. At last the shepherd arrived in a great fright, and said he had lost all the sheep – he could tell nothing about them. Every one, except Agnes and I, went out immediately to look for them in different directions. It came on a dreadful night of rain, thunder, and lightning, and was very dark; the men returned one by one, and no sheep were to be seen.

I was sitting in no very comfortable state in the hut, and taking a look at the door every five minutes, although it was so dark that I could not see a yard before me. Little Agnes was in bed, as I thought fast asleep, but she called to me, and said, if I would allow her to stand at the window, she would tell me when they were coming. I put her on a seat at the window, where she had not stood long, listening very attentively, till she told me they would soon be here, for she heard them far away. I thought she was talking nonsense, as I could hear nothing, neither could any of the men; but Agnes still said she heard them coming, and she was right, for in a few minutes my husband sent to tell me they were all safe in the yards.

 

        On New Year’s Day, 1841, some of our neighbours came to dine with us. I was very anxious to have either a wild goose or turkey, but none of the shepherds could see one to shoot for me so I had determined to have a parrot-pie instead; but on New Year’s morning, while we were at breakfast, two turkeys were seen flying over our hut, one of which was immediately brought down.

I must describe our New Year’s dinner, to show what good things we had in the bush. We had kangaroo soup, roasted turkey well stuffed, a boiled leg of mutton, a parrot-pie, potatoes, and green peas; next, a plum-pudding and strawberry-tart, with plenty of cream. We dined at two o’clock, a late dinner for us, as twelve is the general hour: and at supper, or tea, we had currant-bun, and a large bowl of curds and cream.

We spent a very happy day, although it was exceedingly hot; the thermometer was nearly 100 in the shade. Our friends rode home to their own stations that evening; it is very pleasant riding at night after a hot day.

 

        All the stations near us commenced their poultry-yards from our stock. We got 12s and 15s a-pair for hens, which was the Melbourne price. Had we been nearer town, we might have made a great deal by our poultry. Eggs are also very dear in town, sometimes 8s and 10s a-dozen.

I was much annoyed by the hawks carrying off the young chickens. We lost a great many in this way, as we had not a proper house to put them into; but the gentlemen always promised to build one when they had nothing of more importance to do. They rather slighted the poultry, although they were very glad to get the eggs to breakfast, as well as a nice fat fowl to dinner.

We never fed the poultry; they picked up for themselves, except when I now and then threw them a little corn to keep them about the huts. They roosted on a large tree behind our hut. I was astonished to see how soon the hen begins to teach her chickens to roost. I have seen one take her chickens up to roost in the tree when they were little bigger than sparrows, and scarcely a feather in their wings. I used often to admire the hen’s patience, in teaching her family how to mount the tree; it took her a long time every evening to get them all up, for many a tumble they had, and many times she flew up and down for their instruction; but she seemed very happy and satisfied when she got them all under her branch.

 

        In the bush no one is allowed to go from a hut without eating, or remaining all night, although an entire stranger. We were once sadly deceived by a man who walked into our hut, and introduced himself as a new settler who had come to our neighbourhood. None of us was acquainted with him, but we very soon saw he had not the manners of a gentleman, although he was perfectly as ease, spoke much of his large herds of cattle, and the difficulty he had in bringing his sheep up the country so as to avoid the different stations, as there is a heavy fine for any one driving scabby sheep through a settler’s run, except during one month in the year. This pretended gentleman also talked as if on intimate terms with one of the settlers we knew, and told us much news, some of which astonished us not a little. He dined with us, and begged to know how the pudding was made. I offered to write him the recipe, which I did, although I am sure he could not read it.

In a few days we heard he was a hut-keeper, and an old prisoner, who had been sent by his master to tell us he had some young bullocks to sell, as he knew we wanted to purchase some; but this message was delivered to us as a piece of news. I was rather annoyed at being deceived in this way; but in the bush it is no easy task to tell who are gentlemen and who are not from their dress, or even manners, as a few of them pride themselves in being as rough as possible.

 

        We began to think there were too many masters at one station and my husband’s friends at home had expressed their surprise that he did not leave the young men to manage the station, and find something to do near a town. The situation of his family induced my husband to think seriously of this proposal; but the only happiness I had in the idea of leaving the station was,that I should be able to pay more attention to Agnes, who was now four years old, and almost running wild. In short, for one reason and another, it was resolved we should seek a new home; and for that purpose my husband proceeded to Melbourne to make necessary inquiries. After an absence of three weeks he returned, having taken a farm in the neighbourhood of Melbourne, to which we were immediately to proceed. This proved a fatal step, and the beginning of many misfortunes; but I shall not anticipate.

 

        Accommodated in a spring cart, which was provided with a few necessaries for our use, we departed from the station on the first morning of sheep-shearing, and certainly not without a degree of regret, for, all things considered, we had enjoyed at it a happy bush life, to which I now look back with pleasure. It was early in the morning when we set out, and the first place at which we stopped was the station of Messrs Donald and Hamilton, where we breakfasted, and found a hearty welcome. From this we proceeded to the station of my brother Robert.

Fortunately we found him at home, but quite alone; not even the hut-keeper was with him, as he had taken the place of a shepherd who had run away. The two little huts were perched on the top of a steep bank or craggy rock, at the bottom of which was a deep water-hole. It had the strangest appearance possible; at a little distance it looked not unlike a crow’s nest, and must have been a very dismal place to be left alone for such a length of time as my brother occasionally was. I was very sorry for him, and did not wonder at his complaining of being dull sometimes. I told him we had come to lunch with him, but he said he hoped we had brought the lunch with us, as he had nothing to give us but damper. The rations were done, and no more had come from the home station. We were well provided in the spring-cart; so Robert and I laid out a lunch, and he took a damper he had made out of the ashes.

 

        Before we had got above four miles from my brother’s, the wheel of our cart, in going through a creek, got into a hole, and the vehicle was upset. We were all thrown into the water, but were not hurt, and our greatest difficulty was getting the cart up again. We had to take out the horses, and get into the water and lift it up, as it lay quite on its side. It took all the party’s united strength to lift it. We were quite wet already, so we did not mind standing in the water to do this duty; it was rather refreshing, the day having been so hot. I undressed my infant, and rolled him in my cloak, but all the rest had to sit in wet clothes; we were so much pleased, however, at getting up the cart that we did not think much of it, and were congratulating ourselves on our good fortune, when in going up a very stony hill, down it went again. I felt much stunned, as I was thrown with my head on a stone; but I was not insensible. The thought of my infant was uppermost; he was thrown several yards out of my arms, but the cloak saved him. Her was creeping off on hands and knees out of it, quite in good humour, as if nothing had happened. Agnes was also unhurt, except a bruised cheek, but she was much concerned about a kitten she had got from her uncle Robert, which was squeezed under a carpet-bag. The most unfortunate of our party was poor Mrs. Scott, who was thrown violently on the ground, and lay seriously stunned. On inquiring into her condition, she said that her leg was broken, and in great pain. This was terrible news in such a place as we were, but on examination the case was not so bad; the knee was out of joint, and her ankle already much swollen from a very bad sprain. By her own directions, I pulled her leg till the knee-joint went into its place. She had been thrown with her head down the hill, and she suffered so much pain that she could not allow us to move her, but we propped her up with stones and a carpet-bag; and what more to do we could not tell.

 

        We were far from help; it was already nearly dark, very cold, and we had nothing with which to light a fire; in a word we were in a miserable state. My husband at length remembered an out-station of Mr. Learmonth’s, not above half-a-mile from us; he immediately went there for help, and two mounted police happened fortunately to be at hand. One of them rode back for my brother Robert to come to us, and the other assisted my husband to carry Mrs. Scott on a hurdle to the shepherd’s hut, while I went on before with the children, to try to get a bed ready for her. The shepherds were very kind, and gave up their hut to us at once; and the old hut-keeper begged me to let the poor sick lady have the best bed. I looked at the beds, but it was really difficult to say which was the best, as one was an old sheep-skin, and the other a very dirty blanket, spread on some boards. I chose the sheep-skin for Mrs. Scott, and my husband carried her into the hut and laid her on it. By this time my brother Robert had arrived with a bottle of Scotch whisky, which my husband had left with him. Mrs. Scott took a little of it, which appeared to revive her, for she seemed in great agony from being moved. Her knee was continually going out of joint when she moved, so I split up the lid of an old tea-box I saw in the corner of the hut, and bound the pieces round her knee with a bandage made of a part of my dress; and I succeeded better than I expected, as it did not again come out of its place. I never saw any one bear pain with more composure and cheerfulness than my poor friend. My brother rode on to tell Mr. Scott, and to get a doctor from Geelong. I bathed Mrs. Scott’s ankle often during the night with some hot water in which meat had been boiled; it was the only thing I could get. It relieved her for a little; but we passed a sad night, as we had no dry clothes. My husband was also much bruised, and the horse had trod on his foot, which was very painful: he said nothing about it till next day, when he could scarcely put his foot to the ground.

 

        The hut, to which our misfortunes had thus conducted us, was a miserable place, and I was afraid to try to sleep, there were so many rats running about, and jumping on the beams across the roof. I was, however, very tired, and unconsciously fell asleep for a little; but when I awoke, three rats were fighting on the middle of the floor for a candle I had lighted and placed there stuck in a bottle, there being no candlestick. I rose and separated the combatants. Poor Mrs. Scott had never slept; she said a rat had been watching her all night from the roof. The rats here are very tame and impudent, and not easily frightened, but are not so disgusting in appearance as the rats in England; they are larger and their skin is a beautiful light grey. I shall ever remember this dismal night, which seemed protracted to an unusual length. Day at last dawned, and allowed those who were able to move about, to render assistance as far as circumstance would permit. With the help of the shepherd I prepared breakfast, and afterward dinner for the party. We were much afraid, when the afternoon arrived, that we should have to pass another night in the hut; but at four o’clock, greatly to our delight, Mr. Scott made his appearance, and soon after a dray, in which a bed was placed for Mrs. Scott. It was with difficulty she was lifted into it. I sat beside her with the children, and my husband sat on the other side to keep her steady. Mr. Scott was on horseback. In this way we arrived at Mr. Anderson’s station late at night.

 

        Mrs. Scott was taken home next day, but many months elapsed before she could walk about.

 

        We were now in the Boning Yong (Buninyong) district, which takes its name from a very high mountain, on the top of which is a large hole filled with water. It is quite round, as if made by man, and there are fish and mussels in it. Boning Yong is a native name, and means big mountain. I like the native names very much; I think it a great pity to change them for English ones, as is often done. Station Peak is also a peculiar-looking mountain, and is the boundary between the Melbourne and Geelong districts.

 

        In travelling down to Melbourne, we did not require to sleep in the bush, as there are now several public-houses on the road. The first we came to was not at all comfortable; and the keeper performed the paltry trick of hiding our bullocks, thereby compelling us to remain at his house till they were found, which was not accomplished until we offered a reward for them. We heard many complaints of “planting” bullocks (the colonial expression) at this house. We were more fortunate in the next we arrived at, in which we slept one night and were exceedingly comfortable; it is kept by a Dr. Grieve. On leaving the next morning, Mrs. Grieve gave me a nice currant loaf for the children to eat in the dray.

        I was astonished when I visited Geelong on our way down, to see the progress made in building. I had not seen it since we first landed in the country, at which time three stores were all the buildings in the township. Now it is a large and thriving place. Such is the rapid way that towns get up in this new and enterprising Colony.

 

 

PART FIVE – CONCLUDING CHAPTER 

Saturday 22 April 1843

 

 

        Our unfortunate journey from the bush station was at length brought to a close. After remaining two days in Melbourne, to purchase provisions and some articles of furniture, we proceeded to the farm which we had reason to expect would be our future home. I liked its appearance very much: it was agricultural with ten acres already in crop, and about thirty cleared. The soil was rich and productive, and immediately we got a garden fenced in, and soon had a supply of vegetables. To complete the establishment, we procured some cows from the station, these animals being reckoned my private property. The chief drawback to our comfort was the want of a house, and we were obliged to live in a tent till one could be prepared for our reception. Our neighbours round called upon us; but all were men, and I saw no ladies while at the farm for a period of eight months.

 

        All went on well with us till the month of February, when the heat became almost insupportable, the thermometer in our tent being 110 degrees almost every day, and sometimes 120. It was like living in an oven. All around, the country was parched up to a degree which I am unable to describe. Everything was as dry as tinder; and while in this state, some shepherds either heedlessly or maliciously set the grass on fire a few miles from our farm, and it came down upon us in a tremendous flame several miles in breadth. Long before I could see it from the tents, I heard the crackling and falling of trees. My husband was in town, also our ploughman with the dray; and we had only one man at the farm, as little work could be done at this season. This man told me he had seen the fire, and that it was coming down as fast as he could walk, and would be upon us in half-an-hour, when all our tents, &c., would be burned. For a moment I stood in despair, not knowing what to do. I then thought our only chance of safety would be to burn a circle round the tents. So we lighted a circle round the tent I occupied, which was the most valuable. We procured branches, and kept beating the flames, to keep them from burning more than a space several yards broad, that the flame might not pass over; but before we had finished the burning, Nanny, our servant, who was naturally anxious about her own property, began to burn round her own tent. The fire was too strong for her to keep down alone, so I saw her tent catch fire at the back while she was very busy beating out the flames in the front. I ran to help her to pull down the tent, which she and I did in a few minutes. The tent was nearly all burned, but nothing of any consequence was lost inside. Nanny was in a sad state, knowing that her father had several pounds of gunpowder in a basket under his bed. In trying to save this tent I nearly lost my own, which caught fire; but nanny, with great activity, ran with a bucket of water she was fetching to throw on the burning tent we had pulled down. She threw it over the part that had caught fire, while I beat with my branch; and we had only a hole about three yards square burned in our tent, and part of our bed which was next that side. We had now got the circle burned, and sat down to rest and contemplate on the mischief we had done. We soon found that our exertions might have been spared, for, by the intervention of our ploughed land and a bend in the creek, the fire was divided before it reached us, and went burning and crashing down on each side, several hundred yards from us. It was an awful sight, and I shall never forget it.

 

        My husband and the men sat up all night watching the fire in the woods, which, owing to the darkness, was a most splendid sight, looking like a large town highly illuminated. Next day the conflagration returned upon us in another direction; but we were better prepared for it, and it was kept back by beating it out with branches. All the gentlemen and servants from our farm, and our neighbours, were employed nearly all day in beating it out, and it was again watched all night.

 

        This fire was our crowning misfortune; for though it did but little damage to the property, it led to personal illness, against which it was not easy to bear up.

 

        Things were now in such a state that it was found impossible to go on with the farm, which we therefore let; and my husband being so fortunate as to get an office under government, we removed to Melbourne. At first, we could not find a house except a new one, and we were afraid to live in it. We were obliged to go to an inn, intending to look out for another house, but I was there laid up for three weeks with a very severe attack, from which I was not expected to recover.

 

        We were exceedingly anxious now to send the children home to my mother, as I was told if I had many such attacks I could not live. I felt this myself; but we could not make up our minds about parting with the children, although we knew that Port Phillip was a sad place for children without a mother to watch over them; but, as I got stronger, I could not bear the idea of parting with them, and determined to take great care of myself. I had great difficulty in getting a servant when we came to town; indeed, I was without one for some weeks. At last I got a little girl twelve years of age, till I could hear of a woman-servant. This little girl would not come for less than seven shillings a week, and instead of being any assistance, was a great plague. She was always leading the children into mischief; and whenever I wanted my servant to work, I had to go and bring her home from a game of romps with the neighbouring children. I sent her home at the end of the week with the seven shillings, well pleased to get quit of her; and that very day an Irishwoman came to the door, asking me if I required a servant. She had landed from an emigrant ship three days before. I was delighted to see her, and bade her come in and I would try her. She turned out an honest and well-behaved girl, but very slow and very dirty; her wages were twenty pounds a-year. Several emigrant ships arrived after this with emigrants, and servants began to find great difficulty in getting situations; they were to be seen going about the streets inquiring of every one if they wanted servants. Of course the wages came quickly down; men were now to be hired for twenty to twenty-five pounds a-year, and women from twelve to fifteen. One man I knew, who a month before would not hire under seventy pounds, said he would be glad of a situation at twenty-five, which he could not get. The servants seemed astonished at the sudden change of things for which they were not at all prepared.

 

        From compassion, we allowed a number of female emigrants to live in a detached kitchen we had, until they could find situations as servants. They had come lately from Scotland, had little or no money, and lodgings were very high in price. These girls had come out with most magnificent notions, and were sadly disappointed when they found that situations were so difficult to be procured. As is often the case, they out-stood their market; for a few days they were determined to take nothing less than twenty pounds; but I advised them to take at once any respectable situation that offered, and then look out for a better. They found they had to take my advice at last, and most of them hired for twelve and fifteen pounds.

 

        Most people like Port Phillip after a fair trial, as the delightful and healthy climate compensates for many disagreeables which one has not been accustomed to. The great thing is to get over the first feeling of surprise and disgust. Many find it impossible to do so, and return home to disgust others with their story; but I never yet met one who said, after being in the colony two years, that he would wish to leave it to return home, except for a visit. And this, notwithstanding what I suffered, is my own feeling towards the country.

 

        To conclude these rough notes: I now commenced a school in Melbourne, and had great encouragement to go on with it, having been offered a number of boarders, indeed more than I could have taken charge of. After a short trial, I was unpleasingly reminded that my health was too uncertain to attempt carrying my plans into execution, otherwise all would have been well. Misfortunes did not fall singly. We had received at this time a severe and unexpected pecuniary disappointment from home, which, I am ashamed to say, notwithstanding the fine air of Port Phillip, made me very ill. My husband insisted on my going home to my mother with the children, until his affairs were arranged; and I may consider myself very happy in having such a home to go to.

Had I not been leaving my husband behind in bad health, I could almost have considered our misfortunes a blessing, as it gave me the unspeakable joy of again seeing my mother – a happiness, I had for some time ceased to hope I should ever enjoy, and which had been my only serious regret for leaving home.

 

FINIS

 

 

(In the appendix of Hugh Anderson's work, "The Flowers of the Field" - A history of the Ripon Shire, he has a copy of the above transcript which includes the missing section. In the interests of completion, and I'm hoping Mr. Anderson won't mind too much, I am including the relevant piece.)

 

....up as fast as they could. The gentlemen lighted a good fire by which to watch the sheep all night; but they durst not sit within the glare of it, for fear of the natives taking aim at them, as they knew they were among the rocks, and very likely watching them, although they did not show themselves. The party slept little that night; they cooked and ate some of the mutton; and the little native boy they had to track for them, although in great fear of the other natives, devoured nearly a whole leg. They started early next morning driving the sheep before them, and loaded with spears, tomahawks, waddies, and baskets, which they had taken from the natives. The native boy mounted a horse, saying he would not walk a step; but as he mounted, he slipped off again, and the horse started on; the little fellow caught hold of the tail and allowed himself to be dragged on till he got a food firm hold and them sprung on the horse’s back. James said he never saw a cleverer piece of agility in a circus. On their way home they killed an emu; but they could not carry it with them being already well loaded.

 

When James and our shepherd Sandy came near our hut, they fired off their pistols to let us know they had found the sheep; but we did not understand the signal and I was very much frightened. We at home had been living in great anxiety while my brother was away. I was at the station with only Mary and the children through the day, and our comfort was not much increased at night by knowing that the two old shepherds were at home. We had seen two days before, seven wild natives run past our hut at a little distance, all naked, which gave us a great fright; I thought Mary was going to have a fit. I got my pistol, which I had hanging in my room, loaded; Mary then went for hers, and we walked up and down the hut for about an hour. My husband was at the settlement during all the anxious time we had at the station, and he heard nothing of our loss of sheep until his return.

 

Besides the occasional frights of this kind from the natives, with whom it was no easy matter to be on good terms, we were at times troubled by wild dogs, which proved to be a very serious annoyance. These animals generally discovered themselves when they came by setting up a most piteous howl, which was the signal for sallying out in pursuit of them; for, if let alone, they would make no small havoc with the live stock. They seldom escaped. One of our sheep dogs had a most inveterate hatred to them, and he always tracked them, and often killed one of them, without assistance, although they are very tenacious of life, they are more like a fox than a dog, and of a reddish-brown, and have a very thick bushy tail. When one is killed, the tail is cut off as a trophy, and hung up in the hut; the shepherds generally give five shillings from their master for every wild dog they kill. My husband saw a wild.....

 

 

PORT PHILLIP GAZETTE, Saturday 26TH January 1839

 

 

(In Robert (brother of James) Hamilton's memorandum, he states: "A well-watered creek ran past Mt. Emu in a southerly direction which they named Mt. Emu creek. The natives were pretty numerous around the mount as the party passed and did not seem too pleased to see them. I was not with the parties but my brother James was and he told me all about how they got on.")

 

 

 

 

 

 

Footnotes

  1. Katherine Kirkland was born Katherine Hamilton in 1808 in Glasgow, Scotland, and in 1836 she married Kenneth Kirkland, two years her junior. Just over two years later, in June 1838, she, her husband and infant daughter Agnes Anna, her two brothers James and Robert Hamilton, (along with Alex Lang, Mr. and Mrs. David Hill and Mrs. Hill's sister, Miss Watt; Lachlan McKinnon; William Tennant; the two Misses Simpson; Miss McLean; Mr. Harvey; Mr. Coates; and Dr. Scoutar) sailed to Hobart in the "Renown". Sandy Forrester and his wife Mary were among the steerage passengers. Kenneth Kirkland, and James and Robert Hamilton, left Katherine and Agnes with friends near Launceston, while they went to Port Phillip. The men stayed "about a week" in John Fawkner's hotel - apparently the only brick building in the settlement at the time. While Mr. Kirkland returned to Van Diemen's Land to purchase the necessary equipment for life on a station (drays, bullocks, animals, etc.), the Hamilton brothers walked to Geelong (where the only permanent building was a weather-board store belonging to James Ford Strachan); after staying a couple of nights with David Fisher (a manager for George Mercer) a few miles away on the banks of the Barwon River, they met up with their friend William Cross Yuille who assisted them in finding an 'unoccupied' stretch of ground. By this time Mr. Kirkland had returned to Port Phillip, and after purchasing sheep from Yuille, he and James Hamilton took them to the chosen site at the foot of Mount Emu. They named the run "Trawalla", after learning that was the natives name for the area. Leaving James there, Kirkland returned to V.D.L. and on 21st January 1839 brought Katherine, Agnes, and the entourage, to Geelong.

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